News | Published November 30, 2012 | Written by Heather Harpster, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

How can people with diabetes eat healthy during the holidays?

As the holiday season rolls around, freshly baked treats, office parties and big meals make this a challenging time to stay on track with healthy eating goals. Research shows that most adults gain some weight over the holidays. To make matters worse, most of us don't drop that extra weight before the next holiday season.

The key to eating healthy over the six-week interval between Thanksgiving and New Years is balance and moderation. The following are a few small steps you can take to choose healthy foods and avoid overeating.

  • Always plan ahead - Don't go to a party hungry. Although you may be tempted to skip breakfast or lunch so you can splurge on dessert later, skipping meals may cause you to consume more calories than you would if you had eaten something beforehand. Before you head out the door, plan to eat a healthy snack such as a small handful of nuts, a small apple with peanut butter or cucumber slices with hummus. When you arrive at the party, check out all the food options available and develop a plan. This will enable you to sample foods you enjoy without abandoning the good habits you have formed. You can also offer to bring a healthy dish to share. Not only will the host greatly appreciate the help, but you will know that you have at least one healthy item to choose from.
  • Practice portion control - Start by filling half your plate with foods lower in calories and carbohydrate such as non-starchy vegetables, salad or shrimp cocktail. Select smaller portions of the other foods you'll enjoy. Also, try not to let any of the foods on your plate touch. This will force you to choose and consume smaller portions. And be sure to watch the drinks. Besides the calories, alcohol can lower your inhibitions, which can make you more likely to throw caution to the wind. Choose no- or low-calorie beverages to satisfy your thirst.
  • Limit to one a day - By keeping your serving sizes in check at all times, you can enjoy your favorite holiday treats without the added pounds or blood sugar spikes. Try to stick to the one-a-day rule: allow yourself one small serving of a cookie or piece of candy each day. Be sure to pick something that is really worth the calories; taste the food and savor every bite.
  • Focus on socializing - Many times we forget that there is more to a holiday party than food. Remember the holidays are a time to celebrate good times with family and friends. At your next party, focus your energies on socializing with others and having fun instead of food. Chances are you will eat less.
  • Exercise - Don't forget exercise; exercise is usually the first thing to be eliminated with a busy schedule, but it is important that you stick to your regular exercise routine as much as possible during the holiday season. Including activity on a regular basis can help burn those extra calories/carbohydrates you may have consumed as well as help relieve stress from all the holiday hustle and bustle. Mark it on the calendar, and consider it as important as any other appointment.

To learn more about nutrition and diabetes management, along with available diabetes classes and monthly support groups, please visit our website at, or call Mount Nittany Medical Center's diabetes team at 814.231.7194.

Happy Holidays!